Whisky Editor Fiona McDonald was equally privileged to have a taste of bottled history – in the form of the oldest whisky ever bottled to date, Mortlach 70-year-old. The unique spirit, specially packaged in its hand-blown glass teardrop bottle, was brought to South Africa by the Group Liquor Manager of Spar and keen whisky enthusiast, Ray Edwards.
Edwards’ intention was to auction off two 20cl bottles of 70-year-old Mortlach in order to raise funds for FARR – the Foundation for Alcohol Related Research, which does a lot of work in the field of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome which is a problem in South Africa. The winning bid of R40 000 was posted by Kenny Kennito of the ZAR Lounge in Sandton which far outstripped Edwards’ expectations. “I’m delighted. I wanted people to recognise that this was something super-special and to come to the party for a good cause too. And they did – fantastic! I’m very happy.”
Mortlach distillery is located in Dufftown, right in the heart of the Speyside, and is now owned by Diageo. The freshly distilled spirit went into cask in October 1938 – and was then bottled on 15 October 2008, exactly 70 years later! Placing it in some sort of historical context, the same year Superman made his first appearance in a comic book, Joe Louis was the heavyweight boxing champion of the world, the first ever passenger flight over the Atlantic took place in the Yankee Clipper, the ocean liner Queen Elizabeth was launched in Glasgow, Orson Welles panicked a nation by broad- casting “War of the Worlds” – and Hitler had yet to invade Poland, setting the wheels in motion for the outbreak of World War II.
It was matured in a 250 litre sherry cask and just 54 of the 700ml bottles (selling for £10 000!) and 162 of the 200ml bottles were produced, with the angels having enjoyed more than their fair share over the years! There was a noticeable smokiness to the nose, described by expert Charles McLean as that of “snuffed candles”, along with waxy rum and raisin aromas and even cherries. The flavour was intense (alcohol was 46.1%) with dried figs and a light smokiness but it was so smooth, sensuous, silky and soft. Edwards said Mortlach is not widely known as a brand in its own right because it has previously been used as part of the greater Johnnie Walker blend. “It is available in the United Kingdom as part of the Rare Malts Selection – but this 70-year-old was a genuine one off.”